The Tightrope

 

All at once I am on a tightrope. I no longer have feet next to one another, walking side by side. Instead, one foot ahead, one foot behind. The eyes turn toward infinity, where full seeing power coincides with blindness. The body is light, floating in doubtlessness. The breath, always, the breath. The body is warm, it sweats. One foot… Other foot… The arms waggle gracefully, dancing to faith. 

This is life now. I have forgotten even that I have forgotten what doubt is. I am on this tightrope and I walk and I dance. Faith holds me here, faith is the music I dance to. Not a fraction of second is given to doubt. It has long lost its power of temptation. It has been put where it belongs: It is meaningless, arbitrary, false. The devil has spoken too often, so I left him to speak to himself, and danced away…

I remember: I looked up to the sky one day, in the middle of the day, and thought to myself: if I flutter my arms, if I sustain my own weight in thought, if I breathe with my soul, I can get there—and stay there. And so I did. And not once did I fall! When I reached the sky I understood there is no reason to doubt, no reason to look down, no reason to think of falling. I understood what it means to stay. Stay.

The reasons for falling, which kept me on the ground before, were childish. Childish: the doubt that comes into reality simply because it can. An abuse of possibility! Childish: throwing tantrums if I did not listen to it! As if I had the obligation to think of falling, when I am free to not think of it. Childish: arrogantly claiming to be better than the alternative, simply to steal my attention to itself. It takes only the smallest amount of doubt to fall, no matter from what height.

I believe, I believe!

    With the same perseverance, same arbitrariness, same frequency with which they doubt.

I stay!

     I no longer see reasons not to.

I have always believed!

     I am letting myself be: I ceased interrupting my soul’s conversation with things.

I sing!

The tightrope taught me to sing… Inside my head, behind my eyes, my voice also balances itself on the same rope, one foot, other foot, eyes to infinity, dancing to faith.

Singing is believing. 

 

The Army

 
Hume says: "There is nothing which is not the subject of debate, and in which men of learning are not of contrary opinions (...) Amidst all this bustle 'tis not reason, which carries the prize, but eloquence (...) The victory is not gained by the men at arms, who manage the pike and the sword; but by the trumpeters, drummers, and musicians of the army."
But what if the army band is all there is to the army? Even those we see at first as soldiers are carrying, instead of guns, drum sticks. They pose as warriors, but all they produce is bullet sounds to increment the music. There is nothing but music. There is no enemy to kill. What we have called reason is pure melody. We reason in different ways. Reason offers no guarantee. Life is pure terrifying freedom. Meaning is found and subsequently lost, in waves, like the beating drum. Life is one breath after another, each with its own depth and meaning and logic. But there is no logic to be found behind variation. Part and whole interact ceaselessly, altering one another as they flow. And yet, logic permeates everything. It seems there are a thousand laws. There are laws, but too many, and all in conflict. All of them are valid. We connect with one and then forget it and adopt the opposite law... for variation is in itself a law. Our minds want to run all the possibilites, as if the world were at a loss without our living what is missing from reality. We have a desire for oneness: its purpose is to guide us through multiplicity. We seek both sides with the same love and fear; the one and the many. Perhaps it is necessary to embrace both. The band is the army; the army is the band. You can kill with music and let live with a gun.
 

The Web

 

...that there isn't a destiny. Instead, things acquire meaning through accumulation, repetition. You see it once; you see it a second time. Now it is a sign. Now you will look for it a third, a fourth time. Now when it is absent you will miss it. And when it is substituted by a new cycle of accumulations you will think it was not supposed to have been. What are we to do with this randomness, with this authority over what repeats and what disappears? There is nothing to do with it. It isn't sad. It does not need fixing. You are the author, the maker of what will become your destiny. You are the intersection of everything that you have chosen to call coincidence and only through you are these things linked. Your sequence is just as meaningful, I want to say more meaningful, than any pre-established sequence could have been. Instead of living what was written by another, you get to write it as you go. You get to question it, rewrite it, tear it to pieces and start again until it is meaningful to you. You get to establish the criteria for meaningfulness. And you get the full benefit of poetry and magic. Your invention, for which you will receive all the credit, is just as divine. There isn't a destiny. There is, instead, infinite potential for establishing relations between things, a conscious inteligence that works on these relations, ceaselessly. And as it lives, it multiplies these relations, it fills up with accumulations, until it sees the connection not just between sparse things and events but between all things, all events. When nothing is left to escape its web of relations, its existence becomes sacred; destiny is everywhere.

 

Spotlight

 

When I remember I have no one, I am essentially absolutely irremediably alone, I create.

When I remember it isn't a matter of meeting or not meeting someone, that such person does not exist, and that I am only and have only ever been in love with the world and that the world is me.

I must step away to a place where I cannot be seen. There in that dark alley, in that hidden little bench, behind that wall over there, I will meet with the world, and the world is me. It is the only real meeting. The only possible meeting. It is always only that.

We complain that no one sees us but we see no one. We do not want to see them. We want only to be seen by ourselves. 

There is a moment in musicals when the hero is alone. Then the spotlight finds her.

To be alone is to be in the spotlight.

When the spotlight finds me, I sing.

 

Change

 

The difficulty in changing the world is that we must at the same time find a way to survive in it as it is. We must accept the current situation while saying no to it.

Any change has to begin with acceptance. The impulse to jump out of "what is" will most likely die out otherwise. 

I am this. This is how things are. 

Yet I must also scream: I am not this! This is not how things are! 

To accept too much is to cowardly resign. To accept too little is to float away in dreams. 

What can be changed now? What has to marinate a bit longer in dissatisfaction and despair before it can evolve?

 

 

 

 

 

Silence

 

I have written more than I have read and I have been silent more than I have written. Of the three activities, the first two have been meager, almost insignificant; only the third has been vast. 

The vastness of my silence. 

My silence is vast. 

Silence is my work. If I write, it is to produce fragile rafts that allow me to lie down on that vast sea. But it is the sea, not the rafts, I want beneath me. If I read, it is to find, hidden behind clumsy scribbles, the mute voice of my only friend. It stares at me. It knows.

Words guess, they don't know. When I produce words-that-know I leave language, I am admitted in that boundless empire of loose colors, textures, murmurs. I enter the eternal, the communal. I become my words.

The writer vanishes. Silence remains.  

 

Types

 

 

 

 

Here are some notes I wrote a couple of days ago about forms of relationship people have with culture. 

 

                                                  ---Before reading---

 

-What I mean by "culture" here is a bit vague. It's something like the sum total of cultural production (art, philosophy, etc.). 

-Each of the "types" described below can be embodied by any of us at different times and there is a lot of breeding between types, but most of us live predominantly within one of the types. 

-I am using masculine pronouns all the way through for various reasons ranging from laziness to feminism which I won't get into here (follow-up coming soon). Just trust that I am a die-hard feminist and that I have good reasons for this. 

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FORMS OF ENGAGEMENT WITH CULTURE

 

The Philistine

The Philistine simply ignores the existence of the vast majority of cultural works. The idea of culture is as vague to him as it can be in the current world, where there is always a leak from culture to subject. The Philistine is disengaged from life in general. His identity is determined by the little sound that leaks from culture and by the ignored vastness implicit in that little sound. The little sound he gets from culture does not allow him even the direct connection with life, the pure flow of creativity that he might have had otherwise. He might have hostility toward culture, since culture is what places him in a position of inferiority. If he has no hostility it is worse, because then his inferiority is embraced and he adopts a slave mentality, ready to serve anyone who is even slightly less ignorant than him. He is doomed to live in the world while being alienated from the world. The Philistine can have barbaric power at times, the power to kill and not care.

 

The Pedant 

The Pedant is aware of the existence of the most popular cultural pieces. The idea of culture is less vague to him, but it is still vague in comparison to what it could be. He has heard of the most popular cultural pieces and has a relationship of submissiveness to them. His identity is determined by his lack of intimacy with the pieces he has heard of. His mind is a collection of empty giants. He loves Deleuze and Chomsky but is unable to say more than a few superficial words on what he supposedly loves about them. He loves them because it is cool to love them. He wants to be in the team of those who have intimacy with culture without going through the process of acquiring intimacy.  His connection is not with culture directly, but with the idea of culture as it is propagated by culture itself.

 

The Specialist

Has vast encyclopedic knowledge of particular area(s) of culture but lacks the intimacy that only a creator can have with a creative piece. He lacks the deep connection with central ideas from which all the details would flow effortlessly. He has an entire (or almost entire) collection of details without having connected to the source that generated the details in the first place. He has excellent memory, knows things by heart, is able to recite, etc. But his knowledge is all external: the quality of connection with the works he knows is external and the aim of the connection is to make him praiseworthy externally, i.e., to others (or even externally to himself). His aim in life is primarily to rise above the level of the philistine and the pedant. In a way he becomes what he denies, i.e., since the images of the philistine and the pedant are so present to him, he ends up being a bit of a philistine and pedant.

 

The Philistine Creator 

Is a creator in the sense that he is connected to his own internal life above all else. Is a philistine in the sense that he has no interest in the thought/creation/vocabulary of others and cannot establish a relation between his own internal world and that of other creators. He is distracted from culture, but is constantly generating culture within himself. He is generally distracted and is seen by others as a distracted person, but his distraction from external life arises from deep focus in internal life. He is extremely focused in his internal culture and there is no room left to acquire what is external to himself.

 

The Pedantic Creator

Is a creator in the sense that he is connected to his own internal life and is pedantic in the sense that he is submissive to the empty cultural giants he worships. He has enough creative intelligence to connect to the cultural pieces he is vaguely aware of and also to produce pieces of good quality, which might even deserve a place in culture. He wants to be recognized by culture as a producer of culture. The Pedantic Creator is haunted by this lack of recognition, which is constantly felt.

 

The Specialist Creator

Is deeply connected both to his internal life and to culture. Is able to connect to the source of the many works he memorized details from and is able to produce works of the same quality. The more he produces, the vaster his knowledge of the work of others becomes. Internal and external life are deeply integrated and feed one another endlessly.  But all aspects of his existence (internal and external) are linked to culture. The Specialist Creator respects culture (too much?) and lives in the breast of culture. He takes culture seriously and takes himself seriously as a producer of culture.

 

The Satirist 

Is as capable as the Specialist Creator but doesn’t see the point of the whole industry anymore. Sees the ridicule in creative activity itself and in the way it is absorbed by the public. Sees that culture requires ignorance, that people only consume culture blindly because they are ignorant. Sees that where there is specialism there is necessarily ignorance and alienation. Wants to step back and make fun of the whole spectacle. He has the added dimension of humor with all the disengagement that generates and is generated by humor. He has the same capability of the Specialist Creator, but is unable to take things as seriously. Might be a “crazy genius”. This is where genius and madness merge. But… The Satirist lives a paradox. He is defined by the culture that he criticizes. He is unable to live his authenticity fully because he is a NOT. He is a wise negation of culture, instead of an affirmation of something else. Negation is unstable and the object one negates exerts fascination and ends up attracting. The Satirist produces great criticism of culture, but is engulfed in the paradox of the fact that his criticism is also culture. He has to accept that his negation of culture is pervaded by the elements he wants to negate and that he needs the attention of the people he wants to debunk for his activity to make any sense. The Satirist has a political dimension. His anti-establishment focus is applied to political and social organizations just as well as it is applied to art, philosophy, etc. He envisions a culture in which there would be more authentic producers and less blind consumers.

 

The Sage

Has “conquered the need to conquer the world” (Pressfield). Is as capable as the Specialist Creator and as keen as the Satirist, but has understood that there is something greater beyond the need to know, produce, or criticize culture. The Sage is truly FREE from culture. His freedom is the outcome of a process of deep contemplation. The Sage truly lives. His life is an affirmation. His life is real. There is nothing virtual about it. He is in the real world, with real people. He understands the human. He wants to give and to be of service to people in real life and has escaped the ideal of culture as a defining force. 

 

 

 

Ignorance

 

Being irremediably ignorant is bad enough, but there is the additional problem of being unable to live up to what we do know. Something is lost in the space between our minds and our speech, our imagination and our limbs. We betray ourselves. As soon as we are in someone else’s field of vision, our knowledge creeps under the couch like a frightened dog. In the presence of another we are another to ourselves. And the other too is another. Something dies, and something is born. And all that is left is that meeting, its material existence, its strange independence. The meeting too is mostly ignorant, and unable to live up to the little it knows. It is pure creation, a continuous lie no one involved buys into. Each side wonders how much of it is making it through to the other, each side longs for and dreads communion. We raise our guard and knowledge evaporates. All that matters is the game, the war. Winning. 

 

Time III

 

Instead of depending on these coincidences, we can come up with a method for at least becoming aware of whether we are acting through externally imposed systems. We must doubt all of our thoughts and actions until we come to a thought or action that is self-evident. That is, we must doubt while there is reason for doubting... And when we reach that unquestionable truth... It is the source, our voice. We usually substitute for this self-evident reason a fear of what society will think if we choose to question further; this fear is the foundation for most actions. It is the direct opposite of freedom. 

We must constantly ask for the sources of our thoughts/feelings/ideas. Many of them come from bad movies and TV shows, or the media in general. We emulate bad culture because it is the most constant influence in our lives; it has, for many, become the source. 

Some might think the path of doubting leads to an empty life; that there is some wisdom in the lives that external systems have previously decided upon; that one cannot live more fully by choosing to reinvent every path. But this rests on the assumption that we have no time to question what is ready-made and settled; that we have no time to start from scratch as though we were the first humans. And yet we do have time; all the time of a life should be devoted to this if one is to have any hope of living authentically. 

Life is this reinvention, not what happens around our settling for this or that external system. 

Maybe freedom is one more discourse, as true and fraudulent as any other. If this is so, all that is left is to live aesthetically, moving from one discourse to another according to our sympathy. And in this case, still, meditating on the many discourses would increase awareness and perhaps allow freedom from them, or at least the creation of new, more appropriate, discourses. The fact that we are amalgams of discourses does not entail that we are automatons, incapable of anything other than repetition. One still chooses one's discourses, one still lives in one's method for shifting between discourses, one is still original in that one's history is always an original collage of discourses. 

And new things can be done within a discourse. Discourses are constantly causing each other to change... 

 

Time II

 

But how does one sustain such project? The terror of everyday life kicks in and destroys every attempt at authenticity. There is no ignoring it. Maybe we must accept the terror, see it not as destruction, but as the foundation of the possibility of authenticity. It is because life is meaningless that I must give, that I must be the source of meaningfulness. Meaningfulness is all that can be offered against death, and it is constantly being created from nothing. It isn't simply found. It doesn't lay hiding here or there. Or maybe it is constantly hiding, within ourselves, to be accessed through particular mental states generated by what we observe in the world. Certain experiences we have allow us to reach beyond externally imposed systems, and listen to our own voices. 

 

Time

 

All of a sudden I have been feeling the importance of the accumulation of time. Time gives us backgrounds to measure time against. I am now a woman, a human, with a past. So much has happened and each new event falls into that net and changes it. An infinite ever changing net of relations. From it springs... meaning. I have not in the past had a sense of meaning as I am able to have now. A sense of how each event leads to the next, of how I unconsciously moved from goal to goal, from being to being. Of how the beings I have lived through are interrelated and also strong in themselves. 

I have understood that, since I will never get from life as much as I have to give, the only path to my happiness is to take satisfaction in giving. I want to give it all, all this love I have kept, and have wanted to take. This love exists nowhere else in the world. It was born with me, I am the source. I have spent most of my life dissatisfied, searching for the source as though it had to be external. But looking inside me I saw nothing. All that kept me going was the hope that one day I would find the source. But this hope was what generated my dissatisfaction. It clouds the truth; that I am it, I am the source; I must allow others to find me. 

I am responsible for all humanity. I have always wanted to give, exclusively.

When we live through external systems, each sentence we say is a lie. Each sentence springs from a system of beliefs that is not ours, but that we have chosen to accept because we weren't brave enough to listen to our own system or our need to break systems. 

I long for the moment when not a word - not one word - will come from anywhere but the source - me. 

 

My teen years

 

I have finally made peace with the songs I wrote as a young girl. And I just discovered they are still for sale out there! Awesome!

http://www.cduniverse.com/productinfo.asp?pid=7116460&style=music

 

 

 

 

Hunger

 

HUNGER

 

They had longed for

familiarity.

 

They had been

advised against words

too often

not to abuse them

in minute endless talks.

autopsying their silences

to the utmost cruelty

as if it were a sin

not to translate,

even what can be shown.

Their voices

were everywhere

dangerously disturbing

the universe.

 

When it was installed,

their avoidance

for each other, for every detail of one another,

it too was spoken of

to exhaustion.

 

Nothing happens

That cannot be narrated.

 

Blank

 

As I turned into Laurel street, the small meaningless street off Somerville Ave, I remembered… Poetry. It had been long since I had thought about it. As a child I had written a poem or two. The feeling had made an impression on me, of formless ideas becoming words and being printed into rhythms, sounds, rhymes. A feeling so intense, so close to the truth of things, that I declared myself poet. But I wrote no more. I bought many notebooks, I looked out of windows here and there, sometimes for hours straight, I dressed and acted like a poet, I had all the thoughts of a poet, and my life imitated a poet’s life to the detail. Only one thing was missing: the goddamn poems. 

And now there it was, poetry, staring me in the face. Asking me “where is it? when are you going to write me?” I entered the little street. I sat down on the abandoned little bench I hadn’t noticed until that night. It lasted a moment or two. Not enough to write anything down. I walked back home… blank, like all my little notebooks…

 

Life

 

The less reasons one has to justify life, the more it becomes its own justification. And there we find the source. Where life is supported by nothing but itself. There is an eternal flow emanating from that self-sustaining circle. Because it supports itself, nothing can deviate its power. To be connected to it, is to have eternal strength. This is the strength of saints and martyrs, the ones who can perpetually give without taking. The strength of what is done in the name of nothing. In the circle, everything that one gives comes back; giving and receiving are one. 

 

Invention

 

After something is brought into the world, it is dead. To mess with it further is to kick the dead. Invention is the only source of life.

 

And yet… Authority is the obvious. It is what we are doing when we are not looking. There is no reason to not have it. No real reason. Only the kinds of reason related to self-sabotage, which are all fake. 

 

Learning

 

What is it that I want to learn? I do not want to acquire skills. Skills are silly things that come and go throughout one’s life. They are temporary, conditional things. It seems that I want to learn something permanent. I want to learn the art of living. For this is what I do most of the time. I simply live. It is a wild jump of the imagination for a tree, whose simple purpose is to live inside its environment, to want to acquire skills, and do things, and become good and admirable at things, as though it could conquer some kind of immortality by leaving its condition. I have wanted to escape my condition. But my roots crave the ground. More than anything, I have longed to stay. And yet, these impulses. To leave, to go look for something. These flickers of electricity. What might they be? Have I been conditioned to look for things that do not exist? It is perhaps a cultural disease. Or a human disease. The hero’s journey syndrome. But the hero leaves home only to realize he had been where he wanted to all along. He never finds anything of value that he didn’t already possess. Leaving accomplishes nothing but this realization. Perhaps the only skill worth acquiring is that of being happy with what one has. There is nothing lost, nothing to be found in the outside.

 

Most of all, what I have wanted to learn is authority. I have longed for the kind of authority that comes from within, that is not externally granted. Skills will give you that kind of externally granted authority. But authority over oneself will yield skills of a different nature. Authority will invent a new set of skills, not to be found in culture, and will create the means to develop them. Anyone can play the piano well if they practice enough and effectively, but few people can own the piano, invent it from scratch. And the piano isn’t worth playing if one does not invent it.

 

The hero’s journey has currently been reduced to schooling. One wants to learn something. One looks for a school. One gets in. One learns nothing. One goes back to one’s mediocre life and resigns to it. For that which can be taught in school has already been invented. And the only learning worth pursuing in life is that of invention. One enters school to abdicate from this learning, to let go of one’s authority. And at this point, all is lost. One will only learn to conform to standards, to further imprison oneself, to define oneself by the invention of others.

 

 

 

 

 

Dissatisfaction

 

Dissatisfaction is quite an enigmatic feeling. We are often dissatisfied because we feel the thing that would make us happy is out of reach or forbidden. Then, when a flicker of truth propels us to even imagine its possibility, to declare it openly and shamelessly, we are suddenly living in eternal bliss, unable to make sense of the suffocation that seemed permanent one second earlier. 

 

Structures and Authenticity

 

Repression is generated in many ways, often by what lies beyond one’s field of vision. Structures, for instance, generate repression by making invisible everything that lies outside of them. The structures that dictate sexual organization, make invisible and abnormal all kinds of relationship that are not catalogued. Even worst, they make the possibility of discovering new kinds of relationship invisible, impossible. But this possibility of discovery is what generated the kinds of relationship that have come to be known. Once they were alive and meaningful. Creativity generates what then is established as the norm and pushed to an unquestionable blind spot. It is easy to live through these blind spots, which engender automatism and constant absence.

 

Structures make the outside invisible by being themselves invisible. They set in as though they were the fabric of the mind, leaving no room to step outside and question. Because they are frames of mind as opposed to objects of the mind, they cannot be questioned, but rather generate the questions that one can ask. To step outside all structures, to live in total creative freedom and feel entitled to generate all aspects of one’s existence, as though we were the first creatures ever to walk the Earth… To live authentically. It is quite exhausting and adventurous, but it is perhaps the only way out. 

 

Language

 

I recently read the following passage: “Shakespearean English is an excellent vehicle for discussing the sport of falconry but not of football. The fact that Shakespeare’s plays contain fluent and complex treatments of falconry is due as much to the resources of Elizabethan English as to Shakespeare’s interest in the topic.” in “Michel Foucault: A Very Short Introduction”

 

This is built on the assumption that after a language is “ready to be used” we can look at it and measure its competence to discuss this or that. Shakespearean English is there, waiting to be used, and we see in it the possibility of discussing falconry well. But it isn’t like that: when a language comes to be competent to discuss a certain practice it is because the practice has already grown within the language, over time, creating the means for its discussion. We have not witnessed the small evolutions that allowed for this discussion to be possible, but they form a continuum that results in the possibility of the discussion. It is no coincidence that all languages are suited to discuss practices pertaining to their cultures. The terms required for the discussion adapt and evolve through time, by means of small unnoticeable mutations that make words and expressions fit for the discussion. Shakespearean English would be suited for football if football were practiced and discussed at the time.  

 

Another passage: “If Shakespeare came back to life to attend a final in the World Cup between Germany and England, he would, great writer that he is, be severely handicapped in giving an accurate account of the game.”

 

Yes, but not if he lived through to that event, if he had never died. In that case his language would evolve to be able to discuss whatever came to be meaningful to him. This is an instance of Lamarckism in language. The leaves of high trees are not accidentally nutritious to the giraffe; rather, giraffes exist because there are leaves that nourish them.

 

 

Culture

 

What does it mean for us to be determined by culture? It can mean a series of different things.

 

It can mean that there is a rich and powerful minority who establishes mainstream tendencies and sells it to a majority who wants to be tuned to the mainstream culture, whatever it is. The feeling of being tuned into what’s going on in the world is what they buy. This rich minority might establish these tendencies based on small niches of behavior that spread within other not so rich minorities. Culture creates needs. People need to express themselves in certain ways. Mainstream sells these possibilities and thereby creates culture.

 

It can also mean that whatever man creates, says, does, is culture, becomes culture. So it isn’t that culture determines what man does, but that man and culture are one and the same. One feeds off the other and vice-versa. For what is culture if not the collectivity of actions performed by individuals? A dialectic process where things are imitated and transgressed constantly.

 

There is a deeper sense in which we embody culture through language and gestures and all those things our bodies and minds pick up without our choosing it. Ideas and tendencies come to inhabit us through language. And language is collective. The philosopher is the one who turns against her own language, who pulls unconscious choices to the conscious level. But what is it to say that ideas come to inhabit us through language? How can we know what kinds of ideas are in a way of saying things if we do not know, when we learn to speak, other ways of saying things? Is content, in language, so embodied in the form that it is instantly adopted, along with the form, by speakers? It seems so, for what is language if not a series of contents embodied in words? And what is a competent language learner if not one who can grasp what contents are embodied in what uses of language? But then, to learn other ways of saying things is to learn other ways of being. 

 

How does a word refer to a thing?

 

Is this the right question? What are the assumptions or affirmations that make this question possible? First, that there is some sort of relationship between words and things.

And what is it to say that there is such a relationship? It is, first and foremost, to say that there are two distinct phenomena, words and things, and that they relate in a certain way, and that the way in which they relate is through reference.  Words are on the one side and things on the other, and lines are drawn to connect the two sides, so that the thing is evoked by the word, and the word evokes the thing. No humans are required in this picture. The relationship is between words and things.

In practicing philosophy, it is good to ask what the aesthetic impression is that we get from a certain question. What are the images that such question brings about? For those images will attract and justify certain kinds of answers. Answers aren't facts; they are particular responses to particular questions. An answer is made possible by its question, which was made possible by a premonition of the answer. A question becomes possible only when we are already hinting at the answer, or at least have a field of possible answers. 

When we ask “how does a word refer to a thing?,” the scene that comes to mind is: the word is there, perhaps in the realm of thought or in the world of ideas, or maybe in our minds, and at some point it comes to refer to a thing, which, since the beginning of time, has had all of its properties, and has just been waiting for the birth of man to be baptized. If we reformulate to “how do things come to be referred to by words?,” now it is the things that are there, in the material world, and the words that show up to refer to them.

Perhaps, we might conclude, what is missing from this question is the human that uses words to refer to things. Words alone don’t just refer; someone is using them for that purpose. And so we might want to reformulate “How does a human use a word to refer to a thing?” And then we have humans taking the word from the one side and the thing from the other and making a link between them.

Here, still, words and things are distinct realities that are linked to one another. Reference seems to require this distinction between what refers and what is refered to and seems to demand some sort of temporal ordering of these parts: what comes first, what is referred to or what refers? Or perhaps it requires just the opposite: that both sides are brought about simultaneously. For what is referred to cannot exist without what refers, and what refers cannot exist without what it refers to.

So we might want to imagine that reference is not a permanent eternal connection between two pre-existent sides, but rather some sort of spark that exists only in a certain context and only during the time it is made use of, and then disappears and never reappears in quite the same way.   

 

Book of the Week - Jean Baudrillard Selected Writings

 

I had a brief interaction with this book during my college days, that made a profound impression on me. But after that, for some reason, I never got back to it. Now is the time. 

 

My Band

 

These past 48 hours were amazing. My friend Faisal Aswat (Fez), who plays the bass guitar, is helping me to put a band together. So far we've had the honor of being joined by the great Scott Eisenberg (drums). Scott has been coming all the way from Brooklyn, NY to play with us. The three of us have been rehearsing non-stop at Fez's place since yesterday. The album is coming together really well and we have been having a lovely time. Yesterday rehearsal ended at 9:30pm and we went to the movies (we watched "Ted," yes, "Ted." Fez convinced us to go and I am glad he did because we had a lot of fun). I forgot my wallet home and Fez not only payed for my ticket but sneaked some beer in a plastic cup for me (I didn't have my ID so I couldn't buy any). After the movie we had ice cream, and then went back to Fez's place for a shot of whiskey before bed. Lots of laughs. It was so good hanging out with these guys. We have great band chemistry. I love having a band again! 

 

Book of the Week - The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics, by Bergson

 

Last week I decided to start reading a book a week no matter what. Every Sunday I am gonna pick a book, divide the number of pages by seven and read the resulting number of pages every day. This is the minimum. Of course I will be reading a lot around that (newspapers, articles, novels, etc.). But every week I need to read one book that is actually relevant to my research about how a certain desire for eternity shapes artistic representation (more on it later...). So last week I read "The Varieties of Scientific Experience," by Carl Sagan. Have I mentioned that he is my all-time favorite human? The book isn't great, it's just a collection of his Gifford Lectures. But I was missing his love for science, so it was very refreshing to read it. This week my pick is Bergson's "The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics," which I have actually read before, but it was a long long time ago. Anyone wanna join me?

 

Weird Books

 

Just a quick list of some weird books that I love and that people usually don't know about:

A Course in Hypnotism, found in my grandfather's library, written by some unknown dude who offered the course through mail. 

Pinpoint of Eternity by Peter Salm, about representations of eternal points in Western literature. 

Bartleby and Co. by Enrique Villa-Matas, about writers who almost never or never wrote. 

The Life of the Cosmos by Lee Smolin, about how the laws of the universe might have evolved through some sort of natural selection, just as living things did. 

Marta, The Tree, and The Clock by Jorge Andrade, a collection of the plays of the Brazilian playwright. 

Finite and Infinite Games by James P.Carse, an elegant and compelling meditation around two ways of living life, the finite and the infinite way. 

 

Zizek

 

For those of you who haven't yet watched "Zizek!," the 2005 documentary about the Slovenian thinker, you should. It is a great introduction to his thinking. I have recently read his book "First as tragedy, then as farse," also very interesting. It is good that there is someone out there praising intellectual honesty above anything else (even above philosophical accuracy, if there is such a thing). I don't exactly agree with everything that he says (particularly, his reverence towards Stalin, though I understand his point in doing it), but I admire the way he thinks, always exposing hidden assumptions, and skillfully showing how what we take to be obvious is often precisely what isn't the case. Here is a good video of him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdpudWL5i68

 

 

 

Yes, Ph.D.!

 

Yesterday I found my school. If you read my previous post "Ph.D.?," then you got a feel of how disenchanted I am with the whole academic enterprise. But then I go online researching Slavoj Zizek (one of the living philosopher/theorists whom I admire the most) and I find that he teaches at the European Graduate School, this recently founded private university hidden in the Saas-Fee valley, among the Swiss Alps. They offer an amazing Ph.D. program in Media and Communication that is everything I ever asked for and more. The application is a simple questionnaire. No letters of recommendation, or GRE scores, or boring writing samples required. They just want to know who I am! They give me freedom to write about stuff I actually care about, they are actually interested in inspiring me, and developing my ability to think for myself. They actually want artists to apply (yes, I can and should say that I am a Brazilian rockstar in my application, that I wrote a child's musical, that I developed social projects, etc.). They discourage traditional boring thesis writing (you can add music to your thesis for instance, or write a novel to go along with it). The classes are taught in English and are always in the Summer in two intensive twenty-something days sessions in June and August, where students have 8-10 hours of class everyday with some of the greatest thinkers alive today (among them Zizek, Badiou, Schlondorff - yes, the director of "Death of a Salesman" - Agamben, Judith Butler, just to mention a few). The rest of the year you have this massive reading list, a bunch of online assignments, and occasional talks with your advisor (and in my case, lots of music, writing and chilling out too). They are actually going to be interested in the theories I came up with in the back of typical boring university classrooms. So my attack plan now is to prepare a killer application and do everything that is in my power to get in. Uhuuuuu! I have a life goal again! It feels nice. Even if I don't get in, the fact that there is a place like this in the world makes me proud of being human again. 

 

Roger Miller and good old simple songwriting

 

Every once in a while I get blocked and decide that if I want to write better songs I need to learn new chords and play the guitar better. I get stuck around my A's, and D's and C's and start thinking that I have nothing left to offer. And then a simple two-chord song breaks me out of the spell and gets me writing again. The best songs I know, the ones that really touch me, could have been written by people who know very little about their physical instrument. This is because songwriting is, to some extent, an instrument in and of itself. It's peculiarity is the ability to weave words and music. In my case I try to find the music that is already in words. I work from the lyrics to the melody to the harmony. Words have a rhythm and if you pay close attention, their meaning is usually linked to some melodic pattern. I learned to play the guitar through songwriting, and not the other way around. First I listen (in my head) to the song that is coming my way, then I sing it out loud, and only then do I find the chords in the guitar. If I start by picking up the guitar, chances are I'll get stuck and nothing good will come out. Today what broke me out of the "I-need-to-get-technical" spell was listening to the soundtrack of Disney's Robin Hood (1973), written by Roger Miller. The songs "Oo-de-Lally," "Not In Nottingham," and "Whistle-Stop" are three of my all-time favorites and they're all two to four-chord songs. In the Disney movie Miller is also the narrator (the guitar-playing rooster). His own work is deliciously simple and inspiring too. I am not advocating that technical skills aren't important, but I enjoy it when they are acquired based on need and curiosity, and not for their own sake.  

 

Ph.D.?

 

Should I or should I not apply to a Ph.D. program? And if I am to apply, which program should I apply to? Philosophy? Again? But I am tired of it. I am tired of the way that it is done here. Literature? Again? But it isn't what I want. I don't want to make criticism of what other creative geniuses wrote. I can do that as a hobby. I don't want it to be my life's work. Romance Languages? No way. Intellectual History? Perhaps this is the best option, but still. It is academia. Five more years of my life limiting my research, my interests, obsessing about grades. Learning the traditional way of doing things. And then what? And then I'll be like everyone else who has a Ph.D. Isolated in my office, hunching over books other people wrote, grading papers, trying to inspire students, getting one or two of them to gain depth every semester, while the others get further and further from authenticity and give in more and more to what others want from them. Academia is one more instrument of mass production. It cuts out the edges by small meaningless prohibitions, and in the end we have these perfect shapes with no character. But what then do I want? I want a simple life. I want a minimum amount of money to pay my bills and eat well. Maybe travel once or twice a year. I want free time to do what I really want to do, not what others expect of me. I want my music to be heard, even if I get nothing for it. I want to make music every day, and write, and engage with the world somehow. The thought of taking the GRE again, of preparing another writing sample... It seems off-track. Why would I do it? For the stipend? Getting paid to read and write isn't bad. But then I'll have to get a job. So why don't I just get a job now. It doesn't have to be the best job ever, just one that allows me the simple life I want. I don't want to be a Harvard hot shot. If it were given to me right now I would say no. So why work five years to then see whether I have a chance at it? But then, there is an emptiness in this simple life that I desire. I might be fooling myself into thinking that I will produce good things on my own. Maybe I do need an institution on my back. I just can't decide. 

 

Waiting

 

Waiting is a way to cultivate intimacy with time. It is my method of research: I am waiting. People have told me that I shouldn't enjoy waiting, as though there were something wrong in this wait. I am depressed, they say, or scared. Or maybe I prefer to inhabit a world of promises and dreams, or I am just plain lazy. It took me long to realize that waiting is a choice. There is nothing I long for more than waiting. As I do things, I long for the time when I will be able to just wait. Waiting is an intrinsic part of our experience of time. It is the practice of expanding the fabric that lies behind events, behind facts, where empty chunks of time fly by with no direction. It is a space of ruin, nakedness, a space of pure relation. Waiting is the truth.